Thursday, June 9, 2011

Warhammer Fantasy & 40k vs Warmachine & Hordes

I've recently started my first Hordes army (Circle of Orboros). I've known about the game for some years now, but never ventured into it due to a variety of significant reasons, which were:

1. I was too motivated and inspired by Warhammer Fantasy at the time, so I didn't want to split my efforts between the two systems.

2. The scene for Warhammer was much larger and included a wider variety of people that I wanted to play games with.

3. I didn't like the Privateer Press models as much as the games workshop ones in general.

4. The scale and carnage of a game of Warhammer held a lot more appeal to me than the idea of an intimate, skirmish usually constituted by a WM/Hordes game.

5. Games Workshop models were generally cheaper due to plastic kits, and allowed greater modelling/hobby depth with superior options to kitbash, convert, and create unique and intersesting armies. With PP there is very little conversion, you can't come up with a (visual, modelling based) idea for an army in quite the same way that you can with GW - a good idea might be my buddy Simon with his Gobbtonia collection (google it if you haven't seen this).

And probably other reasons as well, but these are the main ones.

I've managed to overturn a lot of this, though;

1. Although I still enjoy Warhammer very much, and will continue to play friendly and tournament games with my armies, I feel that especially after 8th the game has started to feel a bit stale. The terrain rules, steadfast, more decisive magic, and a general shift towards luck & risk management has probably improved the game in a lot of ways and fixed some of the problems in 7th edition, but at a cost. I feel like the system has lost some of its charm & fun, and at high level there is definately a bit of a skill cap, and not enough ambiguity of optimal play. This has led me to start 40k again as well, and now, Hordes.

2. A lot of other people are switching over to PP as well after the recent GW drama and PP's great starter bundle move to attract fresh converts. I've got several people in the scene already that I am looking forward to playing with but it looks like it will soon swell a bit due to what's happened.

3. Looking carefully through all of the faction galleries i've found that at least 80% of the circle models appeal to me. I'll definately be able to play lists that 100% include models that I really like. And GW are putting out a lot of new models that I really DON'T like.

4. This will always be a reason why I continue to play warhammer as well, but as a gamer with a lot of spare cash and time, I know that i'll be able to get into hordes on a larger scale too. Hopefully it is as much fun.

5. An issue which still favours GW in my eyes, EXCEPT of course for the fact that plastic kits from GW have to be bought retail while I can still order metal models cheaper overseas for my Hordes army. A significant turnaround.


This in mind, I will be putting out a lot of material in future on the forums and on my youtube channel that has to do with Warmachine & Hordes. One pitfall that I hope to steer clear of in future is a lot of constant comparison between GW and PP systems, something that leads to a lot of argument and division, potentially offending people from one or the other communities, etc.

But since it will often come up, this whole post will be about some direct comparisons - that way I can keep the discussion off my forum threads and youtube video comments (one can hope) and nicely contained at my harmless little blog. I'll be able to simply reference this big wall of text for people that really want to delve into it, get my views on the matter, and we can all get it off our chests.

Enjoy, but there's a lot of pretty contentious stuff in here;

Warhammer Fantasy & 40k: Positives relative to WM & Hordes

* Deeper backgrounds and history - just a richer universe in general
* More evocative characters & units, better scifi/fantasy atmosphere to games
* Very gratifying scale. Units & squads with a great tabletop presence, lots more carnage and dice rolling
* Larger communities & more tournaments/events
* Plastic kits; more possibilities for conversion and individualising an army
* Greater detail in army list selection, with spell lores, magic items, and the option to determine an exact number of models in each of your units
* Bigger strategic emphasis on deployment?
* Usually a guarantee that a game will go on for 6 turns if you want it to, as opposed to an 'instant death' knockout style victory/loss, and the allowance for degrees of victory, as opposed to a simple black&white win, loss or draw.
* Greater emphasis on luck and variables which cause a much more frequent occurance of unusual scenarios that are of mechanical interest and inspire fresh thinking

Warmachine & Hordes: Positives relative to Warhammer Fantasy & 40k

* A game by Privateer Press, and not Games workshop! In light of recent events this speaks for itself...
* System is far more balanced, every faction has a stronger chance of winning against any other faction
* Units and abilities are generally much more balanced, which is very important because this way almost every model & unit can be viably used in a competitive arena, and list construction is much less of a 'no-brainer' affair as it often is in GW systems
* Less models needed in order to play - this can mean less overall $ cost and less painting/modelling time needed
* In-game combat mechanics are more complex, allowing for deeper interaction, and a richer variety of winning strategies and tactics
* The rules are written very clearly, so in general there is less room for ambiguity and rules arguments
* Privateer Press in general seems to have done a better job in fixing imbalances in the game, relative to Games Workshop, who will sometimes release an FAQ but often without enough done to solve problems, or in some cases making problems worse


So that's something to chew on, obviously anyone with a very strong bias towards either GW or PP could look through those bullet points and make counter-arguments for any of it, but I feel that is well clear of the point of this blog post.

The real purpose of this write-up has been to allow my youtube batrep audience to pick through some of the issues that have been in my frame of mind with respect to my decision to expand to this new system, without me having to talk at length about it on youtube. This way I can get stuck in to talking about the system itself and soon, some games.

- Vaul

Saturday, April 4, 2009

ESWC Commentaries

The commentaries I have been doing for the ESWC European Qualifiers are not up on my youtube page at this time. I have uploaded HD versions of the games done so far to Megaupload (file hosting site) as Artosis may grab them for use on SCforall.

Feel free to download and watch them in the meantime, here:

Brat_OK vs White-Ra [Game no.1]
Brat_OK vs White-Ra [Game no.2]
Brat_OK vs White-Ra [Game no.3]

Many of you will already know the winner of the whole qualifier, but it is still great to check out some of the matches that were played, as they are a nice snapshot of top foreign play at the moment. Plenty of great starcraft to be seen here.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Link Recommendations

I thought I would post a list of the links that are most important to me as someone that uses the internet every day. There are some great sites in this line-up.



Starcraft Community:



Dawn of War:

Games Workshop:


Zoldon (vaul's music):

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Comprehensive DoW2 Analysis Article, Detailing every component of DoW2

The following article has been written by Korbah of - it's been posted here for the convenience of youtube viewers who can't be bothered creating an account on the dowsanctuary website in order to read and comment on this article.


I've played a lot of RTS in my time. I'm an accomplished DoW1 player and the creator of the DoWpro mod which is currently available for SS. I'd like to think I know a fair bit about how to get the gameplay mechanics of an RTS working together and would offer the current release of DoWpro as an example of my work. However, in compiling this article I have sought the learned opinions of many players and taken onboard the ideas of individuals such as Vaul (the illustrious VoD caster), UltraSimon, KoMMoRRaGH, Yaoquique and many others.

DoWII is an interesting intellectual challenge. My current thoughts on it are mixed - there's both positive and negative elements to the game. It has potential, particularly as a team game but it needs some revisions to reach it. I'm inherently an elitist when it comes to RTS (and make no apology for this - I did make dowPRO) - I love deep strategy with multi-dimensional units but also really enjoy the tactical elements that exist in the faster paced games like DoW1.

My assessment of things at present is that DoWII is lacking in depth and needs more polish- a conclusion I believe many have also reached. If this is true then a further question must be can it be fixed? Now I posed this exact same question with DoWpro and it led to a diversion from some of the elements of the key game. What I'd like to do this time is to stay AS CLOSE TO THE ORIGINAL AS POSSIBLE, making changes in areas that need reworking but doing so in a manner that it is not terribly difficult to implement. Ideally I'd like the recommendations discussed here to be considered for implementation in an official patch from Relic. I'm not convinced I'm really interested in going off and making DoWpro 2.

I guess the final point to raise is why does it NEED to be fixed? For starters, many of the issues raised in this article will annoy even the most casual player. Now the prevailing attitude is that games should be simple to get into so as to appeal to casual players. However, even the most casual player will rapidly determine after only a few games that certain units are far better (compare your ASM to tacs) and that capturing Req points etc doesn’t really matter at all.

The premise of DoW2 is a sound one – make a game that anyone can jump into and enjoy. The reality is that everyone will. However, many will lose interest in the shallowness of the gameplay – many of the talented RTS gamers here immediately saw the profound issues with DoW2 within hours. They’re plain to see for anyone who knows how to look. DoW2 has promise, however SC2 is coming and if DoW2 wants any kind of long term community in the face of that kind of competition it needs to reach that potential FAST. Additionally, I don’t think Relic can afford for DoW2 not to be a hit. If DoW2 isn’t a great game that sells by the truckload – I wonder whether Relic can really survive the worsening economic climate.

There’s high stakes here. There’s reputation of a franchise and a company. The faith of fans. The looming shadow of mighty competition and the worrisome problem that DoW2 probably isn’t good enough yet to really put paid to these questions.

So the question is this: How does one "fix" DoWII without a complete redo of the game that could be readily implemented in a small number of patches by Relic?

Note that there is an official buglist here:
And a technical issue list:

This article goes beyond these lists in scope and assumes Relic is already aware of the aforementioned list.

Exploring the Problem

DoWII's problems are multifactorial but the key summative effect is that ultimately it’s not particularly deep as a RTS and that 3v3 play totally outshines 1v1.

The gameplay elements inherited from CoH are all implemented with varied degrees of success and I believe the only real way of truly exploring the problem is by going through EACH gameplay element one by one and highlighting individual difficulties.

In addition to gameplay elements I will be discussing UI, online lobby, visuals, maps and DLC implementation.

So without further ado.....lets start by breaking down the problems into manageable pieces.

Problems with the Lobby

Interface/lobby - Generally needs a lot of work.

The online lobby is woeful and very "console". The lack of a chat lobby is stunningly poor. The join casual game lobby text is LARGE and the lobby auto-refreshes ..... making it difficult to scroll through the huge list (since the text is SO big) before it freezes and resets to the top of the list.

The NAT overall offered me better connectivity than previous Relic games (first Relic game that didn’t need router port tweaks) - which is great. However, this may not be applicable to all users.

The Beta did not come with a small connectivity/net testing tool - honestly there's been 3rd party community small apps written for previous Relic games to test net connectivity. The failure to not include similar simple tool that helps less savvy users is an unfortunate oversight. If users could readily test their system, be given tips by the app on what to change or where to look for info that’d be a big step forward in connectivity troubleshooting.

I have noticed MANY drops/lag issues whilst playing online. There clearly needs more work to be done on netcode to improve this.

Finally, Relic are still relying on users to upload replays manually. Other RTS's such as supcom manage to employ an integrated upload tool. Surely DoW2 could've gone for a more progressive approach here.

Problems with GFWL

A lot of ppl are reporting being dropped from GFWL. Whether this is DoW2 crashing or GFWL is difficult to determine. There are reports of packet loss by GFWL – if this is true the code needs tightening up.

GFWL has pro’s and con’s. One difficulty I've found is getting a 3rd player for a 3v3 ranked game when none of your friends are online...I'd love to know a better way of doing it than randomly looking for someone who's online in the player tab and sending pm's :S

The trueskill matching system is nice in concept.....but we still have lvl20 guys being matched vs lvl1 guys. I’d argue a bit more tweaking is required.

The whole “if a teammate drops.....the game no longer counts for points” issue is a concern. One that needs fixing for release otherwise it’ll just result in drop abuse and annoy anyone even vaguely interesting in levelling.

I’m sure more ideas can be added here over time but there’s probably more pressing issues and I don’t have much faith in Microsoft doing too much adjustment here.

Problems with the In-game Interface:

A lot of polish work required here......


The lack of grid keys is poor - when will Relic learn that naming a hotkey based on an ability's name is a bad idea. Grid keys means that you only need to get used to one set of keys and it works on all races.

Missing Functions:

No delete function!!! Nor is there an ability to retire your units ie. return them to the HQ for a % cost back. At the moment the only way to get rid of units to free pop cap is to sacrifice them and give the enemy XP. This needs rectifying.

There doesn't seem to be an overwatch function with regards to reinforcing units - I miss it already tongue.gif

There’s no way to view the console.....I miss the console!


The minimap is lacking in detail and audiotriggers. It could be enlarged to take more screen space in order to be more visible - something many players complain about currently. Pinging is fairly discreet....failing to actually draw you to the pinged area. Moreover, CoH had a more developed array of pings (Attack Here, Defend Here, Capture Here).....surely a boon in a team based game like dow2. Better audio cues are needed as well – for example at present I’m not convinced that there’s a “unit under attack” audio cue + visual minimap ping, something that DoW1 had and alerted the player to new combat.

Finally, the resolution of the minimap combined with the size of the VP/power/req points makes it often difficult to see your units. Revised icons/large minimap is needed to improve utility.


The UI itself has a reasonable layout (some will disagree)....that's made very clunky by the fact that there's no grid keys. However, even with grids stuff like ordering a unit to melee a squad is tedious....made even more so if you misclick the enemy since the delineation between different squads is not as clear as dow1 was. Thus if you misclick you must again Z+Click on the squad you originally meant to attack. The toggle stance system of DoW1 was superior.

It could be argued that the UI is a tad “busy” – Relic have packed a LOT of info into the bottom right corner. Perhaps eco could be shifted to be on top of the minimap to reduce clutter. This is not a critical issue as overall, the UI does its job of displaying the info properly. My recommendation here is to keep considering it for possible tweaks to maximise its visibility.

Not being able to see individual hp bars for squad members is problematic and there should be a hotkey etc way to display it.

I liked the hero wargear system etc which works well once u know what happens. Again lack of grids makes this fiddly however, I believe it'd work quite nicely with a better hotkey array.

A case could be made for a slight enlargement of the icons - at 1920x1600 they're really quite tiny. However, this isn't essential unlike prior points.

Unit control is a step back in DoW2 over CoH. In Company of Heroes you could assign multiple squads of Riflemen to one hotkey, and then micro them through the UI to use their abilities at different times.

In CoH, if you had multiple units selected, you could order all of them to do the same thing with one click. Alternatively, if you highlighted one squad in your Selection List then issued an order; only that unit would perform the specified action. You could go back to having all units in your selection perform the same order by clicking on the little shield icon (basically highlighting everything).

In DoW2, if you have multiple units selected, giving an order will result in all the selected units to perform the task regardless of which one is highlighted. There's no way to switch between having all units do the order, and having just the highlighted unit.

This should be changed and in addition there should be a visual notification on the unit as to which is the selected squad within the group on the field to further improve the intuitiveness of selection.

In-game chat communication:

In-game chat is really poor.

The networking lag issues clutters the chat which makes it difficult to see messages from team members.

Moreover, the actual amount of chat you’re allowed to write is tiny – a small sentence at best. Not everyone has mics and this should be rectified with more chars allowed and the networking stats moved to a better location.

Finally....there is no audio cues for when a team member chats to you or an enemy -> there should be one.

In-game voice communication:

Whilst mics are a great feature. Not having push-to-talk isn’t. Add it!

Also there should be an easier way to mute a player once you’re in game rather than having to go through gfwl >.<

Vote Kicking:

Vote-kicking needs to be a consistent option throughout the game. I have now played a good 10 games of team games where an opponent or team-mate has lagged or dropped, a kick menu has arisen, people have said no the first time, but no other opportunities to kick have raised. A more robust solution is needed that provides more information and a more transparent kicking system. The lag issues we’re experiencing may be due to beta code – however, as I mentioned previously there should be a way to test your connection and tweak it with a small application to avoid user net problems whilst Relic fixes and code issues in the game. Finally, the in game system should be more robust.
*Credit to Ultra Simon for some of these points*

Unit Stats in the UI....MIA:

Unit statistics are missing. I know the difficulties in generating unit statistics – manually doing it is a nightmare and needs revision with every patch. In DoWpro we had an EXCELLENT tool called the AutoWiki that generated an entire wiki’s worth of information automatically – a similar tool could generate data files that could be imported into a revised UI. Alternatively Relic could choose to omit in-game unit data and just go with an AutoWiki or something similar themselves. Unit data needs to be accessible somewhere however. Relic should contact the DoWpro team if they’re interested in developing their own tool – we’re happy to give tips etc.

Loading screen enemy list:

In DoW1 your opponents were displayed on the loading screen. Either this is an omission or intentional. Given that you can readily find out who you’re facing once the game starts it seems there isn’t any real good reason not to put it on the loading screen. EITHER remove the icons showing player race for opponents in the player list OR add in loading screen races.

Play Modes

There is currently no observer mode - there should be an observer mode. Additionally there is no 2v2 play....this is a decision to streamline finding games. In DoW1 you had 1v1, 2v2, 3v3, 4v4, Automatch, team auto and QS -> I believe the reasoning to cull some of these options was that was hard to get games with so many modes flying about. The question is whether removing observers and 2v2 is a good decision. I'm not sure if I can answer that yet.

Problems with the Replays

- When you swap viewing players, the acceleration speed of the view rate reverts to x1 irrespective of the speed.

- When viewing a player, any player in red's HQ/building will flicker unusually

- When viewing a player, control groups show in top corner, but not heroes.

- Occasionally, if a unit is selected on the team side viewing before/whilst an upgrade, research, or production is made, then when it is executed, it will appear in a panel in between the units/buildings portrait and the minimap, rather than where the research/unit in-production bar is. All production bars should be visible at all times.

- If you switch which player you are watching all unit icons are removed.

- Invisible units are just that, invisible. No matter what side you're watching in the replay.

- Speeds of x4 x8 should be possible

- Watching as observer is missing

- You don’t see the timer of nades

- You don’t see wargear or upgrades

- You don’t see what the players are building in hq

*Credit to Ultra Simon, Santiago4ever, IKnowShade for some of these points*


Overall models are great. Textures sexy. UI shiny.

One thing that IS fail is the lack of unit randomisation. DoWpro/Fok/DoWxp etc etc in DoW1 had it. It DOES look great and really helps make your army feel more individual. The fact that its lacking in DoW2 is something I can only urge Relic to change asap. There are already players who are complaining about units looking too similar/lacking in recognition, especially in team games. This will mitigate this to a certain degree.

Fx's whilst nice don't appear to have the "Impact" of CoH. There appears to be less camera shake. Sounds are more muted. Death screams softer. Finally booms just don't appear as HUEG.

For whatever the reason this contributes to the combat feeling more generic. Bring in more terrain deformation. More auditory cues. Bigger visual effects.

The lack of persistent bodies we all loved so much in dow1 means that dow2 lacks the “horrors of war” feel that dow1 had. Without fields of slain warriors to march over I’m just not sure I’m playing 40k tongue.gif

Visual Performance issues

Seems a fair few issues revolving around performance here. Code should be improved. Perhaps some others can comment more specifically towards certain issues here, though I think Relic is aware of the issues of current through the technical hardware forums.
*Credit to Ultra Simon for some of these points*

Ranked Matches Rules/settings

Once a game is starting its count down, the count down cannot be cancelled for any reason. This needs to be changed. Sometimes games will freeze just as count down ends. Sometimes a player will leave but the count down will continue.

There seems to be a bug where it says count down cancelled, when in fact it hasn't at all. Rather confusing.

When a player drops for some random reason during the count down, the game will replace with a different person looking for a ranked game - this REALLY needs to be fixed.

*Credit to Ultra Simon for these points*


Gameplay as ever is the most difficult area to critique - its analogous to a living creature and thus biological terms can be used to describe and analyse it. There's more factors having interplay here than any other area of the game and the only way to really work out the “phenotype” of the gameplay is to break it down and look at the “genetics” and environmental factors behind it.

I’ve already spoken about some of the issues regarding the game overall (ie. its phenotype) but to summarise:

DoWII currently plays much better as a 3v3 game than 1v1. Its overall strategic depth is lacking. Whilst there is a rich tactical metagame, more depth could be achieved with tweaks to specific mechanics. Maps are generally small and despite the implementation of deformable terrain/cover etc the current maps don’t really provide many opportunities to really interact regularly with the map environment. Whilst there are balance issues present the real issues with dow2 are the gameplay mechanics that underpin the gameplay – fixing balance issues alone will not make dow2 as good as revision of its mechanics.

DoW2 is a game with promise. With some key tweaks and adjustments it could succeed in being a game that new/casual players can readily get into (as they can now) whilst offering more serious players the depth and challenge they need to keep them interested long-term.

Gameplay Genetic Factors:


Currently Eco is one of the KEY issues with DoW2. Many players have realised that req points are fairly useless compared to VP’s – its almost always better to cap a VP and worry about killing the enemy and THEN going for the REQ points. The HQ, with its huge req rate allows you to focus on VP’s and ignore reqs. Due to the cheapness of teiring in some situations this means that the static, stay-at-home player can successfully tech to higher power t2 units and slaughter their opponent who has gone and contested the map and invested in t1 units. Whilst fast techs are always nice – DoW2 offers one of the most lenient eco systems I’ve ever seen and due to turrets makes it near impossible to rush.

Moreover, without any real way of securing points DoW2 has been criticised as an online game of tag. DoW1 avoided this by allowing LP’s to be placed on points. CoH similarly employed this mechanic to a lesser degree as they were not weaponised.

The Eco situation is further complicated by the small maps and sheer number of points on a given map. There’s loads. There’s no real way of securing them without camping and ultimately req points don’t really matter – its more cost effective to wipe out your opponent’s troops.

1. Power:

I’d say that overall the power mechanic is fairly fun and reasonably well implemented. Although – I still think powerscaling as applied in DoWpro should be considered to encourage more serious and fastidious eco management and reward players for gen harass. In DoWpro power gens became progressively more expensive after the first, costing req AND power. This worked extremely well and I’d urge you to see its implementation in DoWpro to help illustrate my point.

2. Req points:

As mentioned. They’re superfluous. The HQ generates LOADS of income and doesn’t really reward contesting the req points in any real way due to their meagre reward.

HQ income should be reduced. Starting req could be increased to comensate for the lower income over the first 1-2 minutes and finally, req points must become more of a feature.

3. VP’s:

By far the most important capturable in the game. Power coming in second. As a mechanic I have no problem with it – my issue is mainly that they’re SO important in the game that the team/individual that secures them early invariably wins. Victory is typically decided early in the game in DoW2 even if games drag on for a bit. VaulSC has made numerous posts and discussions in his vods regarding this and I agree completely.

Until there’s a way of offsetting VP dominance – I’d postulate here increasing the impact of req points – games will continue to be decided by who takes the VP’s early.

4. Race zeal/waaagh/psy/synapse eco’s:

Another underdeveloped economic mechanic. The 3rd resources are generated by kills. Unfortunately most of the abilities are t3....and horrifically expensive such that they’re almost never seen in a 1v1 game.

There’s no way of increasing your income here either beyond killing – there’s no relic points or the like that could serve as a supplemental point.

One option could be to make req points give a tiny amount of zeal etc although this is probably diversifying the mix here.

More robust ideas are needed for the 3rd reasource – it remains a novelty at
present and must be expanded to permit more utility.

Unit Upkeep:

As it stands the player who actually manages to keep their squads alive is penalised for doing so. Its often better to simply shed weaker, lower tier units in favour of higher tier units.

A revision to the upkeep rates is probably required OR perhaps tying upkeep into veterancy – where veteran squads require LESS upkeep. This would be a more interesting use of the mechanic and also reward the savvy player.


Currently a weak feature in DoW2. They’re small. They’re loaded with points and cover....but have few structures and afaik NO other interaction with environments. Eg. There’s no destroyable bridges or rock formations.

The small maps, hundreds of points and inability to secure the points without camping VP’s help contribute to DoW2’s “game of tag” feel. The lack of map interaction is also disappointing.

Relic should release a map editor now and offer free copies of DoW2 for top notch maps. Something must be done because the current crop are uninspired and serve to further the more tedious aspects of gameplay such as suppression spam and the exciting “lets play capture point tag”.

Finally, we’ve been told not to expect more than 9 maps in total on the PATCHED release (correct me if I’m wrong).

Game modes (take and hold, annihilate):

Annihilate is currently a joke. Turrets are dominant. HQ’s have incredible HP. I could go on but this problem is obvious to even the most casual gamer. Something needs to be done. Remove the game mode or do something even vaguely meaningful.


We’ve been teased with DLC promises. I hope we’re not going to be asked to pay for maps etc when the initial release will contain <10. DLC should value add DoW2. Not add to DoW2 what it should’ve had on release and ask for extra cash.

Online Ranks:

Currently Ranks offer visual tweaks. Pretty limited change but better than nothing. I’d be interested in a more exciting implementation. We’ll see on release.

Combat mechanics: (1-16)

1. Suppression

An interesting mechanic that allows a single HW team to have an impact unlike DoW1 where you needed a critical mass of HW’s to overcome melee units (before they could disrupt your ranged squads).
The current difficulties with suppression is that its excellent. The units not only slow down units A LOT but they also do SUPER damage for a relatively inexpensive squad. There’s not a very developed mechanic in getting out of suppression short of retreating.

A lot more brainstorming needs to flesh out the tactical counter to suppression short of pure flanking and retreating. As it currently stands you cannot typically fall back unless you use the retreat function even if you’re in cover. I’d be interested to see how higher cover bonuses vs suppression speed nerf would function (ie. you could get units into cover when suppressed, to disable or reduce it).

Alternatively, the degree of suppression could be ranged based (or more obviously ranged based). Even at the extremes of HW range suppression causes a huge speed nerf. Perhaps a less severe nerf could be applied at longer ranges.

Finally, all the suppression causing units have excellent line of sight which makes it difficult to scout against them because as soon as you come into range you’re near instantly suppressed. Perhaps a slight LoS nerf once setup relative to regular units to permit some degree of scouting vs HW suppression dealing units.

2. Deployable weapons

When meleed a HW team will move to engage in CC. Once melee is over they will setup in whatever direction they’re currently facing rather than the original direction. This is suboptimal

Heavy weapons that use set up arcs need a button (if there isn't already one) so that you can swivel the arc of the heavy weapon team. To elaborate: Not that this would mean no un-setting up/resetting up, but this would optimise time and pathing so setting up with the least amount of movement is possible.

Whilst using a Set-up weapon, and placing the arc, you cannot scroll the screen using the mouse (not sure about keyboard). It would be nice if you could look around, since you cant cancel the action either.

When a setting-up arc weapon is setting up/repacking, you cannot cancel the animation. Sometimes a player will want to go back on the decision to unpack; it would be nice if the stop button at least allowed the weapon to reset-up from the % in which you hit the 'stop' button. This would stop people 'faking' unpacking/repacking, and would also clear some of the frustration behind on-field use of it.
*Credit to Ultra Simon for these points*

3. Retreating

Currently this mechanic works well except that it is very vulnerable to knockdown. Indeed this makes the use of knockdown weapons one of the best options to employ in dow2. No other ability/weapon has the ability to so thoroughly deny the opponent’s ability to retreat and slaughter squads wholesale.

Whilst debate will rage as to what % conceal is appropriate for the retreating function – ultimately balance testing will dictate this.

4. Infiltration

There’s not a whole lot of units that can infiltrate and the effectiveness of infiltration is largely determined by the effectiveness of the unit which employs it. Eg. Scouts are excellent with shotguns + infil since shotguns are excellent.

There’s no real added benefit to infiltration and it’d be more interesting if an extra mechanic were added eg. A first hit “backstab” melee bonus (rangers knifing Tac HB teams).

Finally....using tooltips only to represent detectors is a fairly poor system. DoWpro used small icons on the unit icon to represent units which could detect. Far more intuitive that trawling through tooltips. DoW2 aims to be casual player friendly – something that’s immediately obvious as a detector is needed.

5. Cover

Cover is much more interesting in dow2 than dow1. However, there are issues. As I’ve described later in this article, the “auto-seek” for cover is often problematic with unit pathing and behaviour. I’ve described this more fully later.

The key issues with cover is that it becomes almost redundant once vehicles come out as they can destroy it at whim. Give that so little new cover is generated during the course of a game from environmental damage, this is a key issue for later game infantry combat as HW + mass spam becomes more important with more units fighting in the open.

There needs to be a revision either on how cover is destroyed OR have it such that much more cover is generated during a game – thus preserving later game infantry combat.

6. Line of Sight (LoS)

A relatively poorly developed mechanic. Most units have HUGE line of sights which makes scouting units fairly redundant unless the individual scout unit is great (ie. shotty scouts). Combine this with decent LoS from captured points and tiny maps and you really don’t have much of a need to have a dedicated and ongoing scouting effort. Given that you’re always better off capping rather than scouting, that HW’s see just as far (or near enough such that it doesn’t matter) and that your pop for certain races should be spent elsewhere on your scouting units – scouting as a mechanic really doesn’t get much love.

I have noted that scouts do seem to have larger LoS than HB’s – but this is purely anecdotal since there’s no readily available stats at this stage. At any rate the mechanic is fairly undeveloped overall (eg. There’s no LoS modifiers for being in cover, or whilst moving, or garrisoned etc).

7. Garrison buildings

When you actually FIND one of the few buildings and garrison it you can make an impact. Unfortunately there’s not many buildings around and invariably its always better to just mass units to attack a garrisoned structure rather than use the dedicated anti-garrison HW upgrades because they’re fairly useless.

Units in structures die reasonably easily and only HW teams like tac HB’s are going to have much dmg output.

There’s not enough buildings on the maps. The maps are small anyway which would probably make adding more a bit campy. Counters aren’t really that effective and don’t have much utility against other units in other situations and invariably you’re always better off either massing + overwhelming now OR teching to t2 and getting your walker unit to dominate the structure and those inside.

Neat idea. Let down by implementation of counters and maps.

8. Wargear and Unit upgrades

A great mechanic. Hero wargear works well. Offers a possibility for strategic depth (.....which dow2 is sorely short on).

Unfortunately.....for heroes the upgrades are NOT created equal. This effectively means that there’s only a few viable combo’s and as such the depth of the system actually falls short of its potential.

More concerning is that only heroes have this system. ALL units that have upgradeable heavy weapons should be able to refit with other ones rather than being relegated to a single role. Timers could balance this out for problematic units such as WL’s but the fact remains that until all units with upgrades use hero style wargear we’re going to have a fairly shallow and uninspired relationship with basic units. Your uber-tacs are only ever going to be used for AV if they’ve got a rocket – it boxes them into a single role, decreases the interest for the player in the unit and also may force a player to sacrifice said unit to free up pop.

One of the most important changes needed and it applies to many units:

Scouts, Tacs, Nid warriors etc etc

Furthermore, units such as platforms and Devastator squads should be MERGED into a single unit and given the option of upgrading their weapons. A timer modifier applied in the base could allow this to be done rapidly to avoid issues of deploying a counter – whilst keeping field refits balanced with a long timer cost.

9. Abilities

The abilities should be reviewed for initial timer values to ensure they all occur in a timely fashion.
Moreover, there’s obviously many issues regarding balance and power levels of various abilities – I think this is best discussed in balance issues.

Until grid hotkeys arrive – abilities will remain fiddly and frustrating to use.

10. Unit Levelling

A fun mechanic. Everyone likes being rewarded for using their units well. Unfortunately this becomes fairly superfluous since ultimately you will need to deploy certain counters eg. Tac rockets and this suddenly relegates your elite veteran squad to a fixed role and reduces the potential flexibility and interest you’d have with a more flexible unit that can refit AND have veterancy. Unit levelling will be a more important and interesting mechanic once hero wargear is applied to all units.

However, Relic’s implementation is woefully simple. From what I can tell levelling is a simple multiplier effect. Essentially units with high HP get MUCH more benefit from levelling than low HP units. Eg. Compare a 420HP SM scout to a 4500hp terminator squad. Fully levelled the scout is ~630HP vs ~7K HP for terminators. Clearly there’s a MUCH better bonus for the terminator despite having the same % bonus. This means that late game there’s no reason to keep low tier units and you should aim to get high tier units and get them levelled.

A more complex system is needed. Its not necessarily appropriate that scouts become HP monsters once they’re levelled. However, their utility could be improved via other means such as: faster capping, faster re-equips (assuming my re-equip suggestion is implemented), lower upkeep costs. The point is that the current system lacks depth and can cause problems. A more detailed and interesting system is needed to smooth out issues and to actually promote the use of elite level t1 squads in later game rather than recycling to free cap.

11. Teiring/Teching

Currently teiring is FAST and CHEAP. The only one I really have issue with is its cheapness and its value. T3 is currently fairly useless for most races. Most of the great abilities come at t2. Most of the great units come at t2. T2 is the best upgrade you can buy in DoW2. With some pieces of wargear costing similar to a tier....but clearly not possessing as much value – you have to question why are the costs so skewed.

The following rule served me very well in DoWpro:

“Everything should be costed according to its worth/You get what you pay for...and you should get it fast when you’re paying cash”

I’ve no problem with fast tiering. I think it works well. Cheap teiring is a different issue especially compared to the more useless HW/Wargear items that cost comparable amounts.

The aforementioned rule should be applied to EVERY FACET of dow2. It does work and it works well.

13. Unit AI

Auto-AI cover is frequently frustrating. Often it overrides player commands. Ideally a stance should be added to allow units to cease auto-cover seeking and let players seek cover manually. This would mean casual players can still enjoy the auto-cover whilst more advanced players can micro more and have greater unit control.

Irrespective of what worked in Company of Heroes, units moving by themselves to take cover rather than shooting a retreating enemy or utilising a powerful ability/weapon whilst they can is NOT REALISM! Let players micro to cover directly themselves OR add stances that permit the auto-ai to be disabled. The system for moving behind cover and using direction is rather good and intelligent - no need for AI to intervene.

Additionally, you can’t cancel orders by moving a unit, this should be changed (e.g. if a squad is about to throw a grenade but are given the order to move, the action interrupts and they move)

*BUG* Commanders in particular occasionally freeze and ignore all commands including retreat.....potentially game-losing bug

14. Stances

The lack of stances in general is something of an issue. Units will often chase into the enemy’s base and die to turrets. A hold position stance would also be beneficial and stop your units from auto-seeking cover.

DoW2 has removed the Stand Ground, Hold Ground etc stances from the original game. In Company of Heroes there were also no stances, but units would simply hold their designated position, save for moving to better cover during the course of a firefight. In DoW2, ranged units act similarly to CoH, essentially defaulting to DoW1's "Hold Ground" stance. Melee units, however, (which CoH never had to deal with) seem permanently set to DoW1's "Attack" stance, and will willingly follow a retreating enemy the entire length of the map, dealing little to no damage on the way until at last they come face to face with the enemy's HQ turrets and are turned into a fine red paste.

However, while these units blindly follow enemies the entire width of the map, their melee-activation radius (how close they have to be to the enemy to charge in) is tiny: unless the enemy comes within around 4-5 units' width of them, my sluggas are content to stand where they are and occasionally take pot-shots with their pistols at the scouts standing 1 second worth of movement away.

Also, the removal of the Ranged/Assault stance leads to unncessary awkwardness. For example, sluggas upgraded with burnas default to the "Ranged" stance, requiring a specific "Melee Attack" command to be issued to make them engage in close combat -- where, it must be noted, they do far superior damage than they ever would at range, burnas or no. Which means the stance is simply changed upon upgrading, and not dictated by choosing the stance which deals the greatest damage.

Perhaps a related note, sending a unit after a specific unit only works until they disappear into the fog of war. This is most noticable and frustrating when sending a unit to attack an enemy that's in the process of decapping a point: the second the point is decapped, and the visibility around the point disappears, the unit you sent can no longer "see" the enemy and so stops dead in its tracks, instead of carrying on to defend the point. Which results in both losing map control and having units standing around in the open scratching themselves. Annoying.

*Credit to Bandolaf for his views on stances*

15. Transports

Destruction of transports causing insta-death to all inside is a bit of a concern given the cost of certain units and the inherent weakness of transports. This is a particularly harsh mechanic and given the woes in pathing with vehicles at time.....this can be very frustrating for a player struck with pathing glitches.

I’d advocate a HP hit to transported units rather than instadeath.

Transports are currently far more useful for their HW’s than anything else. They’re too risky to transport troops in due to low hp + pathing issues + instadeath for transported squads. They’re not actually THAT much faster than the infantry on the small dow2 maps – given the risks its better to just footslog.

16. Knockdown

One of the most effective unit abilities at present, ranking right up there with suppression. The difference is that knockdown will even affect retreating units and let you trap and kill with enough mass of knockdown units. A concern since no other mechanic beyond overwhelming superiority of numbers will let u wipe out retreating squads.

Known Current imbalances (balance is not the prime focus of this article....but a comprehensive list of units will be provided regardless):

WIP – there’s LOADS and they will affect gameplay. Will update this section asap.


I’ve been pretty frank in my assessment of DoW2. I make no apology for this – as I said DoW2 has potential but needs work to reach it.

I hope that in providing a single coherent article to outline the numerous concerns I have with the game to help illustrate the areas that need work and development to increase the depth and fun for all players of DoW2.

I look forward to receiving your thoughts and feedback and will continue to update and amend this article with the intention of providing a single, definitive resource which outlines the key areas in which DoW2 could be improved upon.

- Korbah

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

January 13, 2009

Welcome to the first post.

All information here is intended to supplement the material that I post on my Youtube page: - having somewhere to present a lot of text allows me to keep people more educated and informed about me and the content that I upload to Youtube. Posting here will also allow me to go into more depth about things that can't really be dealt with in detail with youtube videos - such as what i'm planning on posting in future, why i'm not posting certain things, what I think of a large section of feedback in general, and information about stuff that I could post but don't. I'll break everything here into relevant sections, so readers can just skip to whatever topics interest them the most.

Starcraft: Brood War

It was a long time before I ever posted anything on youtube that wasn't about Starcraft: Broodwar (bw from now on), so what happened? There was a crucial turning point many months ago now. Strelok (my favourite non-korean bw player) had advertised a training program on Team Liquid which I consulted him about on msn. I was readying myself for either an intense commitment to bw which would take up my whole life, or... nothing. It turned out that his asking price was exorbitant - I came away from that feeling dissapointed and burnt out with bw in general.

Later, I got into Dawn of War and pretty much went on a hiatus from bw. It's saddening in some ways, because I have to still acknowledge that bw is the greatest rts game ever, and rts is my genre. Trying to succeed at an rts other than bw is like running away - it's unfulfilling.

Still, there are a number of reasons bw just isn't fun right now. Every time I try to go back to it and work on it, I encounter the same feelings:

1- I've reached a point where the ratio of improvement to effort invested is significantly low. Playing a lot doesn't result in that very special and enjoyable feeling that i'm really making progress and will continue to the more I play.
2- Often I'll just lose games to players who I really feel didn't deserve to win. Could this just be because i'm not cut out for playing Terran (my race in bw) at a certain level? Is my sense of strategy, timing or mechanical skill just really deficient? It's hard to say. But it's also hard to be optimistic when one fails in such a way - you're constantly worried that you are giving everyone else the impression that you are only as good as the way you are playing, when you know that you worked much harder than that.
3- I get this nagging feeling that had I chosen Protoss as my race for bw rather than Terran, certain things would be easier. Objectively, there's no real argument in favour of either race having more potential, but as an experienced player I really get the impression that when it comes to certain, quite subtle features of bw that the former race is more forgiving than the latter. I will never know for sure.

My youtube bw commentaries will be few and far between, as they have been in recent times. Although, my good friend Tim (aka fonger) is making a road trip up to Auckland this weekend - it'll be good to meet him and play some games. We'll probably also meet some of the regulars from on saturday at a net cafe.

Warcraft 3: The Frozen Throne

I get a surprising number of requests for more commentaries relating to this game. It's the game I played the most, by far - but that was years ago. The game and its scene have stagnated, with high level competition slugging it out on the same maps for years upon years. I enjoy revisiting it every once in a while to comment on a game that turned out to be unusual as well as exciting - but they are rare.

Dawn of War: Soulstorm

Well, the beta for Dawn of war II is coming out next week, for users who have a Soulstorm Cdkey. I will be playing it and commentating on it, so expect videos next week.

As for all those people asking me for a game of Soulstorm - forget it. I don't play random people that ask me for a game by sending me a message via my youtube account. Also, i'm not actually playing Soulstorm at all currently, because:

- Despite being a really fun game, it's finally become boring. I've come within reach of the very low skill ceiling it has. I know what all the abusive strategies and imbalances are. I can read the play when I see it and the game is highly predictable. With the sequel coming out soon, and with a lot of other stuff going on, Soulstorm really isn't interesting right now.

Thanks to everyone who enjoyed my tournament and the more recent showmatch, by the way. Unfortunately there will be no more events like this.

Warhammer 40,000: Tabletop

Unexpectedly, i'm now back into tabletop. It's been strange - I first got into games workshop stuff when I was about 12 (i'm 24 now, so that's 12 years ago). However, I sure as hell haven't been playing for 12 years. More accurately, there were several shorter periods of 1-3 years where I was into the hobby. It's making a resurgence again.

The main reason for this is that my friend Dave (who is in a band with another, closer friend) has a really nicely painted Dark Angels army, so I dug out my old 4th edition (with some 2nd edition models) army looking for some games. While in the mood for that, I also organised a game with other people I knew who had armies and before I knew it, i'm making battle reports and visiting the local gaming club every sunday.

Unfortunately, i'm not liking my collection of models for 5th edition purposes. I abused a very specific army list option (craftworld eldar: iyanden; 3 wraithlords, 15 wraithguard, avatar, 3x heavy support choices) that isn't available for 5th edition. So now I can't use all my stuff in the same list. I've been thinking strongly about collecting a new army for 40k - but more on this at a later date.

Warhammer Fantasy

And then, over the christmas break, I spent a lot of time reading the rules for warhammer fantasy, which is in it's 7th edition, as well as a lot of army books. Fantasy was my introduction into the games workshop set of franchises (after the now extinct space crusade) when I was 12, and I had a High Elves collection.

I loved it back then, but never really did well at anything strategy-gaming, because I was always thinking of the romantic ideals of it all, imagining glorious, sweeping battle, and never paying attention to the cold, brutal mechanics behind things. Boy, how that has changed.

Anyway, looking through the current warhammer range, which has somehow expanded to at least seventeen different and playable races, I spotted Tomb Kings. I couldn't believe that this was a race. Readers who are very familiar with the theme of my music will understand.

An army featuring a Casket of Souls was a must. Reading the mechanics of it in the army book sold me on the idea - I would collect a tomb kings army, and unleash this on people. Some internet feedback on my proposed army list was encouraging. With my mind made up, I then went about the gruelling task of finding the cheapest way to do this financially.

Many people notice right away that everything sold by Games Workshop costs an exorbitant amount of money. I can't walk out of one of their retail stores without feeling like I almost got mugged. It's tragic. Luckily my friend Mark works at an independent stockist, which does discounts on gw merchandize, but this still didn't seem like enough.

But then, on the dakka forums, I saw an advertisement for a mail order website called little metal men. After converting their prices from pounds to New Zealand dollars, I realised that this was cutting down the cost of what I wanted by roughly a half. That's significant. I went ahead and started sending their customer services team a bunch of enquiries. Turns out that their postage prices and so on were all very, very reasonable. So I place and order, but...

...big mistake. It took them a couple of weeks of waiting around (ok, they had only just re-opened after christmas, but they didn't keep up with my e-mails very frequently either), and then I get an e-mail today saying that postage would be a LOT more than they orginally quoted. Even knowing where it was going to be sent to. And much of the stuff I planned to order was now unavailable.

Well this sucks, and my credit card has been billed. We've agreed that they will cancel the order and refund it, but now I have to wait for that. I want to get this army sorted out ASAP, because then I can enter the tournament that is coming up next month.

Be careful when doing business (if at all) with these guys!!

The Disciples of Zoldon

Well, i've been working on new material for a long time now. For the last 4 albums/EP, I put out something new every year. I guess i've only broken with that now that i've really fallen so heavily into online gaming and because my youtube page has been so successful.

Still, just before christmas I made a breakthrough, and worked out how to demo up my stuff at home, rather than just 'planning' it, so to speak, using midi. My friends are pretty stoked on the new stuff i've been coming up with. It's just a matter of continuing the patience that i've exerted over what has probably been a couple of years now.

There will be a new DOZ EP. I can't say when. But it will get done. Other things are taking priority right now, though.

Diablo II: Lord of Destruction

Okay, so I started the 'Chronicles of Balnathus', but to be honest i'm bored already. I've played that game to death in earlier years, and I thought I would be able to come back to it with the motivation of running this commentary series. But it didn't really work - fans will probably not see Balnathus again.

Also, some absolute fuckwit decided to e-mail me with patronizing comments about what I was doing. It's like he assumed I was brand new to the game, when I had explained that in times past I had levelled up to 90, acquired powerful gear allowing me to kill pretty much anything, etc. I could have gone on about that in my videos, but that wouldn't have been at all compelling. He also went and posted a video on his own page just to show everyone what awesome gear his own character had.

Way to go, retard. Diablo II: LOD is a game where maxing out isn't hard. Everyone has access to cheats, dupes, silly trades, maphack, bots.... you name it. People know this, especially me - I wouldn't bother commentating on a game as ancient as Diablo if I didn't know a lot about it's community and background. I better stop ranting about this, it's only making me angry again!